Rancho Bernardo, California Man Recalls Escaping WTC

SAN DIEGO -- Rancho Bernardo resident Bill Hay escaped the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, and has been reliving the experience over the past couple of weeks.

He told 10News that his 30 years in the military played a role in his reaction that day.

Hay was giving a lecture on the 55th floor of the first World Trade Center tower to be hit.

"All of a sudden, I see all this debris, and flame, and stuff coming down the side of the building. So, I immediately turned to my class and said, 'Let's get your personal effects and get the hell out of here," he said.

A decorated marine, Hay was shot at in three wars -- hit in two. At least those battles involved soldiers, he said.

During World War Two, during Korea, and Vietnam, we knew who the enemy was," he said.

The enemy on Sept. 11 was faceless, and the victims were innocent. Images of body parts in the street haunt him to this day.

"That's the one part that I still have nightmares about," Hay said.

Hay said he also often thinks of the firemen who passed him in the stairwell on their way up, men who did not make it home to their families.

He said he also wonders about the attackers and admits to being confused as to how they could become so frenzied and radical.

"I just don't understand how a person can take their own life, go and blow themselves up and take the lives of other people," Hay said.

Unlike many of the people that escaped the buildings, Hay said he does not feel survivor guilt.

He also said he tries not to dwell on it. Hay said he can relate to people wanting to commemorate the first anniversary, but said he'd prefer to simply go on with with the life that was spared that day.

"I've made it, I've lived another year," he said. "I'll be 75 on my next birthday, and I'm not going to live in the past. I have to live for the future, and that's what we all have to do."

Copyright 2002 by TheSanDiegoChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.